Wanted: Tales of work and play on Wakefield waterfront

Landmarks  in Wakefield will benefit from cash to help preserve the district's culture.
Landmarks in Wakefield will benefit from cash to help preserve the district's culture.
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History buffs are putting together a definitive account of the transformation of Wakefield’s waterfront with the help of a big lottery grant.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £8,400 to allow Wakefield Historical Society to look at how the area has changed over the centuries.

And members of the society are now appealing for people who have worked and lived near the waterfront to come forward and tell their stories.

Pam Judkins, president of the society, says “By seeking people’s memories of the area, we hope to add a human dimension to the history. We shall also be looking at through documents, maps and photographs.

“We will share our results with the community through exhibitions, video, a waterfront trail and a catalogue of resources people can use for further research.

“We will also add further material to the Society’s website www.wakefieldhistoricalsoc.org.uk. It will be a very useful addition to the understanding of the history of the area.”

The society’s project will look at how the industries on the waterside have grown and how the residential community has developed ever since the development of the River Calder as a navigable waterway from 1702.

Recent years have seen the Waterfront area completely regenerated in a large scale project that has included the restoration of the Grade II listed Calder and Hebble Navigation Warehouse.

The celebrated Hepworth Wakefield art gallery designed by David Chipperfield also opened in May last year.

Even more work is being planned for 2013 and beyond.

To capture the full scope of these changes, members of the society will help people undertake their own research.

The project will also benefit from the knowledge of local historian John Goodchild, who is a vice-president of the society, and the archive material held in the John Goodchild collection.

The River Calder was made navigable to Wakefield in 1702 by the Aire and Calder Navigation. From 1770 boats were able to go further west using the extension along the Calder and Hebble Navigation to Sowerby Bridge, and across the Pennines from 1804 with the opening of the Rochdale Canal.

A third waterway, the Barnsley Canal, was created between Wakefield and Barnsley in 1799.

The history of the watermills which developed from the medieval period has already been published in John Goodchild’s Aspects of Medieval Wakefield and its Legacy.

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